I should point out I'm not much of a shopper - I'll tend to go to shop to buy something specific, rather than "just pop by to browse". That said I'd prefer to go shopping at Fortnum and Mason (Piccadilly) rather than Harrods (Knightsbridge). Both are high-brow places, both sell stuff you don't need, and both have ranges of their own unique products (both also have an ice cream parlour nowadays too).
Visiting F&M is an experience - the hat and tails wearing doorman will open the door with a friendly welcome for you as you approach. On entering, the shop is grand - it has high ceilings, is decadently appointed and has sumptuous products everywhere. The whole thing is a spectacle, a celebration of shopping and choice with all of the wares cherished and special (even if they're actually quite ordinary). If like me you have little shopping stamina, they have a cute bar down the beautiful spiral staircase where you can get a glass of wine and a nibble or two. If that's not what you want, then there's the ice cream parlour or various restaurants. The shop isn't usually over-crowded, and is generally frequented by considerate shoppers who conduct themselves with a little decorum.
Contrast this with Harrods. The doormen are so over-worked they'll probably just be lurking about the entrances whilst an inconsiderate, tired, irate and rude fellow shopper lets go of the swing door in your face. You'll enter the fairly run-of-the-mill shop and observe the over-priced ordinary products, with the odd interspersed Harrods own-brand facsimile of the products you know and love (although to be fair, Harrods do have some lovely products too - you just have to search for them). The ceilings are low, the spaces cramped and busy. There's almost no spectacle, except maybe the Egyptian escalator or a few other choice areas. There are also some places to sit down and take a moment to regroup. These are fancy versions of canteens, with bustling service a constant rotation of customers. All in all, it's basically an expensive supermarket. If it wasn't called Harrods, you probably wouldn't go near it.
So all in all, I have to say, F&M is by far the better option for me. It's on my list of "tourist stuff for visitors", and since it's a place Mrs Cat shops from time to time, it's had a bit of my custom too. In the Internet age, one wonders what the future holds for physical stores, but I'd guess the likes of F&M will do just fine. They offer something you can't get anywhere else, and you certainly can't get online. I'd imagine we'd all like the idea of having an experience you can't get anywhere else, and buy unique products you can't (easily) get online - even if they're more expensive than the equivalent chain-store products we're more used to. Time will tell...
Stuff that's happened this week:
A cow-orker of mine said "Senior Vice President? That's the sort of guy that's got his office, and spends his day looking at his cigars". Seemed like a nice summation to me ;-)
British Gas didn't do what they said they would.
H&M made a better mannequin, raising questions of what's human and what's not and how we can't tell the difference.
I've reminded myself how great Negrill in Brixton is.
I'm finding myself watching One Man and His Dog. I appear to have aged considerably (possibly due to receiving a pair of slippers from Mrs Cat).
We've got this little fella in our fridge (he's a Fridgeezoo Fridge Pet - get 'em at firebox). When the light comes on, he says stuff like "hello" and "shut the door". I did wonder if we'd find him irritating, but actually, he's really quite cute. He just chats away when the door's open, and goes quiet when you close the door again. He's sort of like a kitchen pal that's keeping an eye on things while you're not there :-)
I bought a new saddle for my bike (a Dahon Espresso, but with a saddle off my old Trek 950). Anyway, I bought a Bioflex Ozone - it's spongy and padded and it's got the magic groove that, er, keeps one's gentlemen's area comfy (very useful on pot-hole riddled London streets).
Anyway, for some unexplained reason, I seem to be riding a chunk faster than before. Who'd have thought, eh...?
Mrs. Cat asked me "have you forgotten about coofercat.com?". Well, rest assured, Cat fans, I haven't. My lack of blogging is really just a symptom of too much other stuff going on. I've got a few things coming down the pike soon, so stay tuned - more coming soon :-)
The Cat switched to a new broadband supplier: Plusnet (supposedly, "good, honest broadband from Yorkshire"). So far, the switch over was completely painless, and they've managed to do what BT, Freedom2surf, Opal and TalkTalk couldn't do: get over 10Mbps to my house (Plusnet seems to be tuning in at 14.5Mbps, although the upstream is at 476Kbps, whereas it used to be up at about 800).
I can't tell you how much I'm glad to be rid of TalkTalk 'business' (a bit of history). They're useless. They did ask me to answer some consumer questions, which I did. When asked about their service, I said "they went to great pains to assure me I'd continue to get 'business class' service, but throughout I've been flying Ryanair". They have said they're going to waive the early termination fee - I'm just waiting for them to 'forget' that sometime soon.
Actually, I'll give Bethere a "shame on you" mention too. They can't transfer anyone to their service unless they're with BT or the Postoffice. That's the reason I'm with Plusnet. Sorry Bethere - you're generally considered the best provider, but you won't let me be your customer.
This translation guide seems to be doing the rounds. I've tried to follow the links back to the source, and this is the best I can find, although I suspect he's not the author.
Anyway, if I may suggest, it might help understand us Brits a little better ;-)
Yesterday I went to Fortnum and Mason's Ice Cream Parlour. It's really quite an experience, and apart from us, was unexpectedly devoid of children. We had a bit of an ice cream starter, some savoury food and then of course gorged on some beautiful sundaes. The ice creams they have really are very special.
I think the last time I went to F&M was when I was a kid. I'd forgotten what an amazing shop it is (a stunning interior with some uniquely traditional British touches), and with the addition of the ice cream parlour, I'm pleased to say that it's arrived on my "list of stuff" to tell tourists to do in London. Whilst it's not cheap (say £25/head), it's an experience I'd like to have again.
According to the Lonely Planet guide to the UK, Surrey is boring (reported in the Telegraph, although the Orange Travel Blog got there first). Having grown up in Guildford, I have to agree to some extent. Surrey is picturesque, it's accessible, it's safe, it's comfortable, it's convenient, it's (reasonly) well managed, but none of that make it exciting.
I do wonder what an exciting county looks like, but I can agree that Surrey isn't it. Generally what I hear about Guildford is "it's good for shopping" - a nice enough mantle, but not exactly resounding. If you ever hear about Surrey heartlands in the news, it's usually introduced as "Leafy Surrey", as if nothing happens in Surrey except the sound of the leaves growing on the trees.